At some point during all the packing, I asked my husband if he wanted to keep his wedding ring. This may seem like an odd question to ask, but here’s the thing: to the best of my recollection, after our wedding ceremony, he never once wore it. Not on dates, not to family holidays, not even to a party I threw for my grandmother’s ninetieth birthday, though I begged, because the thought of my entire family knowing that the man I committed the rest of my life to wouldn’t wear a wedding ring was mortifying.
I used to make excuses for him in public. I’d say, “Trying to get a wedding ring on him is like trying to put a dog in a sweater,” and then laugh. In private, we fought about it often, and as hard as I tried to be the cool wife who was blasé about her husband donning a public symbol of commitment, I always failed. He would say, “I just don’t like the ring.” If I offered to go buy another, he’d say, “We just don’t have enough money right now,” and I would say, “Okay,” and let it go—in the conversation, if not in my head—because I didn’t know what else to say. We didn’t have a ton of money, true, but we had enough to splurge on fancy restaurants and new iPhones sometimes, so why not a ring? But I didn’t press the issue because I think I knew what I was going to find out if I did: wearing a wedding ring wasn’t anywhere near the top of his priority list, whether it made me happy or not.
Admittedly, there was something deeper at work, which is this: my husband lied about being married to me. (Which, as I’m typing, makes me want to knock my past self upside the head, although I know the more appropriate reaction would be compassion.) Like most things in my life that have blossomed into full-fledged disasters, it started small. We married young, so young that he had one more year of college left, and he didn’t want to be seen as “the married guy.” So he didn’t want to tell anyone that he had a wife. I understood. I completely did. I’d just graduated college, so the thought of having a memorable senior year was something I still empathized with. And it didn’t really matter, did it? After graduation, how many people was he really going to keep in touch with? Our closest friends knew, and we knew, and that was what was really important. Right?
At his graduation, I had to stand next to him as he introduced his family to his friends. “This is my mom, this is my dad, this is my brother, and this is… Prudence.” The ellipsis was audible. It made my blood boil, but I ignored it, telling myself that it was over, that I’d chosen to make a sacrifice for my husband’s happiness, and that now we could get down to the business of having a normal marriage.
After his graduation ceremony, his whole family gathered for a celebratory dinner. A lot of distant relatives had come from out of town to mark his achievement with toasts and speeches. Perhaps this is a good point to mention that his mother didn’t want anyone to know we were married, either. Anyway, after just enough white wine and one too many people speaking about his future, one which they had no idea involved me, I decided that I wanted to give a toast, too. So I stood up, in front of all of his family and gave him the most lovely, supportive speech. I think he knew what I was about to do, and how mean-spirited it was, but to everyone else in the room, I was just a happily buzzed girlfriend bubbling over with joy. “I know you’re going to do so well in whatever comes next,” I said, “and I’m so proud that I’m your wife.” And then I sat my ass down, happy with the stand that I’d taken, with the big, “Fuck, you,” I’d just sent his way.
And then two months later, my husband started a job with people he went to college with, and he lied about being married to me at work, too.
He did keep the ring, by the way. The ring that I slipped on his finger as I took my vows, the ring that sat in a box on our dresser and grew tarnished. He kept it. I think it would have been easier if he hadn’t.
Photo: Emily Takes Photos
Prudence is in the process of getting a divorce from her husband of almost three years. She’s currently on the road sightseeing, writing, and engaging in general vagrancy.